Simply a list of literature both fiction and nonfiction dealing with death/topic of death
Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us by Paul Koudounaris
Paul Koudounaris takes us on a journey around the world to discover cultures’ unique way of handling their dead and death. Riddled with several enlightening essays and breathtaking photographs about the topic and the rich history of diverse death practices, it’s one of the seminal books on the topic.
The Necrophiliac by Gabrielle Wittkop
A book that yearns to be read aloud because of its poetic merit. The Necrophiliac, chronicles a tale of a man about his lusts and woes, his adventures and misadventures in necrophilia. Although the details can often be stomach-turning, it is almost forgiven because of how beautiful it’s all described as. This book will leave you feeling torn about how beautiful it is and how much it disgusted you.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
You may recognise her from Ask a Mortician from YouTube, where she delves into topics we may have all been afraid to ask. In her memoir, she touches on several topics she also touched on her channel, with a few extra added in here. She delivers her memoir with levity, which makes this an easy read and bound to make the reader more aware of Death Culture.
Beyond the Dark Veil by The Thanatos Archive
In the same vein as Memento Mori, The Thanatos Archive brings their vast collection of mourning photography to the table, or your coffee table. Offering a few essays throughout the collection on the rich history of death photography/ mourning photography and how American Culture embraced it until the early 1900s. We normally are not face-to-face with the dead but this collection will inundate the reader with these images, but instead of being gorey, difficult to look at, the people -- bodies -- look to be sleeping, completely peaceful, and this is what makes this collection of photographs and essays an essential read and experience.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Eugenides novel about five sisters who all consecutively commit suicide, narrated by a group of boys from across the road who find themselves obsessed with the sisters, has become something of a cult sensation. It is a postmodern experiment that somehow, through its complicated layers and awkward, intense descriptions, distances you from the real horror of teenage suicide. Some may say that it is a novel that romanticises suicide as the death's only make the sisters more interesting to their admires. However you view this novel, it is one that continues to divide opinion long after its publication, and remains a completely unique account of sorrow and family relationships.
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell
With a subtitle like “Seventeen Brushes with Death” you can easily work out what this memoir is about. Maggie O’Farrell beautifully writes about her near death experiences with such vivid candour. From a childhood sickness, to a creepy encounter with a man in a remote location. I Am, I Am, I Am is a snapshot at the life events that have defined Maggie O’Farrell’s life.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying is a classic American novel that is often referenced when talking about the southern gothic genre. This book follows the journey of fifteen different characters as they set out to fulfill the wishes of the recently deceased Addie Bundren; which is to be buried in Jefferson. Faulkner shifts between the fifteen narrators throughout this novel; one of them is the deceased Addie; who is expressing her thoughts from the coffin. As the book continues you can see the characters develop with each narrator’s perceptions and opinions, particularly in relation to the deceased.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
Whether you call Grief is the Thing with Feathers a novel or a poetry collection, there is no denying the impact this book has had. Max Porter cycles through a range of different topics all to related to grief. Mainly focusing on the real life experiences following the sudden death of Porter’s wife. This book looks at not only his own grief process but that of their two sons.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Saunders is best known for his extremely postmodern and experimental fiction. Open one of his short story collections and you will be forced to read his narration multiple times before you can understand the inferences that lie beneath the text. His first full novel, that won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, is probably more accessible than his short stories as it gives him more room for development and thus doesn’t leave the reader completely on their own to join the dots. The novel’s main character, Willie, is Abraham Lincoln’s late son, now wondering in a strange limbo between life and death with a cast of other strange beings. In classic Saunders fashion, however, lots of the action is left out for readers to come to their own conclusions about how the story is working, being mostly comprised of speech.
Cold Spring in Winter by Valérie Rouzeau
Exploring the all consuming grief after the death of the poet’s father, this collection is like a gut-punch of raw emotion. Language itself seems to fail and the poetic language dissolves into baby-talk, puns and nursery rhymes as the narrator tries to move on with her life, but keep being reminded of what is now suddenly missing. A demanding read, but well worth the effort. Originally published in the French as Pas revoir.
The Ice-Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
In this Norwegian modern classic we meet two young girls at the very beginning of their friendship, when one of them suddenly goes missing and is assumed dead. A haunting and atmospheric read set in a frosty winter-landscape, where what is left out of the story is just as important as what is kept in. Exploring friendship and secrets and the void left behind when opportunities are lost forever, this is a beautiful story steeped in symbolism.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Set on the night before his friend’s execution we meet David as he’s looking back at the time they spent together in Paris. An important and heartbreaking novel about the love between two men in the 1950s that will not get their happily ever after. It’s one of those stories where you get to know how it ends in the very beginning, but where the actual end is made that more emotional by having seen the whole journey there.